- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2007

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi officials said today that multinational forces detained as many as six Iranians in an overnight raid on Tehran’s diplomatic mission in the northern city of Irbil just hours after President Bush gave details about his new military plan for Iraq.

The forces stormed the Iranian mission at about 3 a.m., detaining the five staffers and confiscating computers and documents, two senior local Kurdish officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. Irbil is a city in the Kurdish-controlled north, 220 miles from Baghdad.

The action came as President Bush laston Wednesday night accused Iran and Syria of “allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq.” The comment came during his speech announcing he would send 21,500 additional U.S. forces to Iraq.

“We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria,” he said, “and we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”

Iraq’s government welcomed Mr. Bush’s new strategy and promised it was committed to making sure the strategy succeeds. However, ordinary Iraqis gave it mixed reviews, with many expressing skepticism that an increase in U.S. troops would quell the violence ransacking their country.

“The failure in Iraq will not affect this country only but the rest of the region and the world, including the United States,” said Sadiq al-Rikabi, an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

A Sunni lawmaker rejected Mr. Bush’s plan to send more troops, calling instead for a timetable for them to withdraw and for direct negotiations with insurgents.

“Bush’s plan could be the last attempt to fix the chaos created after the invasion of Iraq. Yet, sending more troops will not end the problem; on the contrary, there will be more bloodshed,” said Sunni lawmaker Hussein al-Falluji.

An Iraqi official said today the government is waiting for more facts about the raid on the Iranian consulate before commenting.

“There are reports that six people were detained, but now we want clarification from the American side and from the Iranian side about these people and what they were doing there and whether they were employees,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said during a news conference.

He added that Iraq’s Foreign Ministry is contacting concerned sides, “and then we can take an official stance on the matter.”

In Tehran, Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Iraqi and Swiss ambassadors and “demanded an explanation” about the incident. Switzerland represents American interests in Iran, where there is no U.S. Embassy.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, told state-run radio that the raid was “against a diplomatic mission” because the “presence of Iranian staffers in Irbil was legal.”

A number of Kurdish guerrillas could be seen around the Iranian mission, preventing people from getting close to the house and not allowing cameramen and photographers to take pictures.

The report, which first appeared on Iraq state television, also was confirmed by a Shi’ite official in the capital, who declined to be named for the same reason.

The U.S. military issued a statement saying it had taken six people into custody in the Irbil region but made no mention of a raid on the Iranian consulate. It declined further comment on the raid.

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